Vernon and area residents will have fewer healthcare options next week.
The Primacy North Okanagan Medical Clinic in the Superstore is forced to close for seven days due to the doctor shortage.
“We are severely under staffed with doctors and because of that we can’t open our doors,” said receptionist Dawn Holmes.
The clinic will be closed Sunday, April 23 through to April 30.
There are generally only one or two doctors working at the clinic each day. There is a pool of seven doctors who work at the clinic, a stark reduction from the 20 the clinic had when it first opened 17 years ago, according to Holmes.
Back then the clinic was open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the only day it was closed was Christmas Day.
“Now, we can’t even stay open 9 to 5 some days,” said Holmes. “Sometimes we have to close at 1.”
The clinic is also almost always at capacity, as was the case Wednesday, April 19 for both this north end clinic as well as the Sterling Centre operation.
“This morning there was people lined up to the elevator when we opened at 9 and at 9:01 we were at capacity.”
She grapples with what to tell those who have to be turned away.
“A lot of people don’t have family doctors and they’re struggling, they’re struggling big time.”
The clinic is inundated daily with calls to refill prescriptions, which they used to be able to do over the phone during the pandemic but just can’t do it anymore.
Therefore Holmes advises those needing refills not to wait until the last minute.
Since starting at the clinic in February of 2006, she has never seen the situation this bad.
“This is as desperate as it’s ever been,” she said, adding that she knows there are discussions with upper levels of government, but not if anything is happening to alleviate the healthcare crisis.
This is the second time in less than a year the clinic has been forced to close for an extended period due to a lack of doctors. It was closed in August 2022 for 10 days.
The closures also mean no work for Holmes. While she has a second job, the clinic provides the bulk of her income.